Watch: Bent but not broken in Hadeel Assali’s short video “Daggit Gazza”

A spicy salad special to Gaza, made by crushing tomatoes with a mortar and pestle, is used as a metaphor for the profound pressures endured by Palestinians under siege in Hadeel Assali’s clever short video Daggit Gazza.

Daggit Gazza, according to the video’s description on Vimeo, “can be translated as the spicy tomato salad made in Gaza (called daggah) or the pounding of Gaza.”

The video shows the dish being made from start to finish, first by crushing garlic with salt and chili pepper into a paste, then adding basil, tomato and finally olive oil. The video is accompanied by an audio recording of a conversation with the filmmaker’s uncle, Hossam. Only his side of the conversation is heard as he makes small talk about preparing the traditional qatayef sweet during Ramadan, and then moves on to describe to the more serious matter of the impact of Israel’s siege on Gaza.

The short video, 7.5 minutes long, has been screened at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and at the Palestine film festivals in both Houston and Boston.

Incidentally, the distinctive mortar and pestle traditionally used in Gaza is discussed in Hadeel Assali’s interview with The Gaza Kitchen authors Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt published on The Electronic Intifada this week:

Hadeel Assali: It is great that you put the zibdeyah [Gaza-made clay mortar and pestle] at the beginning of the book; it is essentially the holy grail of the Gaza kitchen. Perhaps you can talk about this and offer suggestions for alternatives for those who don’t have access to this very specific kitchen tool.

Laila El-Haddad: I had mentioned substitutes in the book, but because of publishing space constraints, they had to be removed. I suggested the Mexican molcajete and perhaps an even better substitute is the clay Thai mortar and pestle. Most important is for people to know is the metal and marble ones do not work the same. The wider the base, the better.

Maggie Schmitt: What is interesting about it is how much its use is at the heart of the way people cook. The object itself is, from my perspective, one more consumer object, but it becomes beautiful because people use it so much and love it so much and it becomes somehow part of the family — but not as the object itself. I wrote about it before on another website, and many people kept asking how to get one. But the whole point was the borders are closed and you can’t get one!

Even the zibdeyah is affected by Israel’s siege and occupation, which colors every aspect of life in Gaza. But as the Arabic proverb cited by Uncle Hossam in Daggit Gaza goes, “God blesses the flexible wood, the flexible wood doesn’t break … no matter how much you bend it.”


Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.